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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 65-76

Disputed Land Rights and Conservation-led Displacement: A Double Whammy on the Poor

1 Osaka University, School of Human Sciences, Suita City, Osaka, Japan
2 University of Nottingham (Malaysia Campus), School of Economics, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Correspondence Address:
Lai Ming Lam
Osaka University, School of Human Sciences, Suita City, Osaka, Japan

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.132132

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The practice of conservation through displacement has become commonplace in developing countries. However, resettlement programs remain at very low standards as government policies only focus on economic-based compensation which often excludes socially and economically marginalised groups. In this paper, based on a case study of the displaced indigenous people, the Rana Tharus, from the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal, we argue that compensation as a panacea is a myth as it does not effectively replace the loss of livelihoods. This is particularly the case when the indigenous community's customary rights to land are not legally protected. Our ethnographic data support the contention that the history of social exclusion is rooted in the land reform and settlement policies, which deprived the Rana Tharus of proper land rights. The present land compensation scheme resulted in a 'double whammy' on indigenous forest dwellers. The legal land title holders on average received less than 60% of their land. Moreover, due to the poor quality of soil in the resettlement areas the average crop yield was less than half the quantity produced before displacement. While economic indicators show widespread impoverishment with less food security, low agricultural productivity, and landlessness, social indicators suggest depletion of social capital in the resettled communities where there are less job opportunities and less social networks. Our study indicates that along with compensation, the concept of 'livelihood restoration' should also be fully implemented in any resettlement program to prevent further impoverishment.

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